What being Mi'kmaw means to me.

By Jasen Sylvester Benwah

je'sn penwa
Thunder Cloud

Pjila'si (welcome),

Being a Mikmaw in a area where many people have traditionally denied their own ancestry is unique to say the least. In the past in Bay St. George (Nujio'qoniik) and especially on the Port au Port Peninsula, it was not fashionable to be French, Mi'kmaq or French speaking Mi'kmaq in a British Colony. The leaders of the Colony wanted assimilation. We were to be anglocized and we would be an aboriginal people no more. Later, with the help of confederation in 1949, this almost happened. Today, we will no longer allow it to be so- Many of us are proud of who we are.

Our communities look and feel like reserves in Nova Scotia, but we live as our European-descendant friends, except with a void in our hearts, because we have been denied our culture and language. Many of our ancenstors spoke Mi'kmaw and/or French and today we speak English and French. I believe our old Mi'kmaq language should be reintroduced to our people. It will help us identify who we are and our place in the world. In order for us to move on as a people, we must understand and respect our past culture and heritage. It was for this reason that I created the St. George's Bay Mikmaq website.

I saw a void in the community and a poor attitude from our leadership. FNI seemed to be usually quiet, and the francophone movement had done little to promote our cause. Recently, when Stephenville celebrated it's 50 years as a town, it didn't take the time to include it's aboriginal beginnings. The area was know as Indian Creek and Indian Head and before that it was called L' Savage. Aboriginals were living here before the Europeans came. There were Mikmaq and Beothuk campsites throughout the area. Some people still ignore this fact.

I looked for information on our history and could not find one local site that provided it. I took it upon myself to do what I could to promote our people to ourselves. My site is not for profit, it is to help educate my fellow brethern of whom we really are. We are not a threat to anyone and have always been part of the "frabric" of the community.

I am, as many are, very proud of the Conne River Reserve- but, it's existance does little to address the lack of status the majority of off-reserve Mi'kmaq of the province have- especially here in Bay St. George. I am 4th and 5th cousins with the Mikmaw in Conne River and I support their initives. I, however, believe we should have full status regardless if you live on a researve or not. We do not intend to move to Conne River or to move to Cape Breton- we want recignition regardless of where we live. This is our "God given right".

In the end, the Federal and Provincial Governments still deny us the rights and dignity we deserve. I say how dare they try to tell us who we are or where we should be living. Start listening to us and we will tell you that we are proud Mikmaq and you can never take that away from us- no matter what you do.

I say these things as a lifetime member of the Mi'kmaq tribe whose territorry span from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, North-Easter Quebec, PEI and Northern Maine. I have seen that all Mi'kmaq support their fellow Mi'kmaw regardless of which area, which reserve they come from and it makes me think that we have a fighting chance to continue into the future as a united people who have suffered much but in the end survived.

I see many changes coming to the area in the future- most of which will not be welcomed by anyone. The aboriginal movement, if successful could bring much needed dollars to the region. Our very future here may depend on it. I will elaborate more on this in the future.

For those of you interested in the Mi'kmaq language, there are a number of websites where lessons are available online- such as:

http://firstnationhelp.com/ali/lessons.php

http://www.mikmaq.com/language/

http://www.mikmaqonline.org/

Please check out my website at: Jasen's Website and see what I have started.

Wela'lin (thank you).

Compiled by Jasen S. Benwah

Local Mi'kmaq Researcher

Cape St. George, NL.

spotted.wolf@hotmail.com

www.benoitfirstnation.ca/jasen_index.html

As Seen in The Georgian Newspaper, July 29-Aug 3, 2003 Edition

 

Website Copyright 2003 Jasen Benwah